Law society accepts former escort as lawyer

Kathryn Smithen [JD ’08] always knew there would be a day of reckoning – she never thought it would come the way it did, blindsiding her, wrote the Toronto Star June 1.

It was Jan. 30, 2004, a perfectly bleak, windy day. Smithen’s teenaged daughter discovered that her mother was an escort. “She was devastated and she was ashamed,” says Smithen softly. “I realized that nothing I did to make money to support us was worth destroying her emotionally. I knew I had to stop.”

She did. But Smithen, who also had a bunch of fraud-related convictions and some jail time, went a step further and overhauled her life. That year, she was accepted to [York University’s] Osgoode Hall Law School.

On May 12, a Law Society of Upper Canada panel decided Smithen possessed the good character necessary to practise law in Ontario. The circle of her life was complete.

A quiet moment of triumph. The best birthday present she’d ever had. (She turned 49 that day.) “I am moving forward in a very positive way,” says Smithen. “I am thrilled and I am grateful with the way I was treated by the panel and the decision that was made.”

She chose law school because she had always been interested in social justice and because she struggled to get child support and custody of her daughter, she says. “I feel I have a special affinity for moms and kids.”

While interviewing for law school, Smithen says she never tried to hide any details of her past. “I was totally honest…because I was starting my life over again,” Smithen says.

Smithen graduated in June 2008 and completed articling in 2009. She then had to wait for the Law Society’s hearing and decision.

According to Law Times, a weekly paper that follows the province’s legal scene, Smithen’s remorse was accepted by the Law Society panel. “Despite her horrendous behaviour in the past, she has come to grips with all of the reasons that propelled her to act so badly and has made a commitment to herself and others to conduct herself with honesty and integrity,” wrote James Caskey, on behalf of the three-member panel.

Two languages better than one

Some of the best brain physical therapy comes from knowing and using two languages, says Ellen Bialystok, a noted cognitive neuroscientist from York University [Faculty of Health] in Toronto, in an interview this week with The New York Times, wrote Washington’s The Wenatchee World May 31.

The dual language system has been most successful at Lewis and Clark Elementary in Wenatchee, where there is a waiting list for students wishing to enter the program. [But] the Wenatchee School District now is considering ending the dual language program at Mission View Elementary, contrary to the pleadings of some parents who thought it had great value for their children.

The parents are right. The early evidence from Lewis and Clark shows the dual language students tend to do better on standardized tests than students from English-only classrooms. That matches the conclusions of researchers who found that Spanish-speaking children learn English more quickly in dual language programs and become more proficient in reading and writing.

That figures, Bialystok would probably say. Her research showed that "knowledge of two languages is greater than the sum of its parts." Bilingualism helps with multitasking, concentrating on two things at once. They tested that with a driving simulator, oddly enough. They also studied the history of a group of Alzheimer’s patients and found that in bilinguals the disease took hold later, and they coped longer, she told The Times.

"Bilingualism is good for you," Bialystok said. "It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise."

The struggle of the NB immigrant

On Tuesday, four panellists presented research exploring the immigrant experience in New Brunswick, wrote New Brunswick’s Telegraph-Journal June 1. The session, hosted by Chedly Belkhodja, director of the Atlantic Metropolis Centre and a Université de Moncton professor, looked at the experiences of Korean immigrants in the province, the integration of francophones into Acadia, the voices of immigrant youth in Fredericton and Florenceville, and migration trends in Saint John.

A research project conducted by Belkhodja and Ann Kim of York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and the York Centre for Asian Research]  studied the experience of South Korean immigrants, who Belkhodja said are the largest single immigrant populations arriving in New Brunswick.

Kim said most have been provincially sponsored, a number that climbed from 26 in 2000 to 2004 to 1,020 nominees arriving between 2005 and 2008.

Eighty per cent of these immigrants hold university degrees, said Kim, but her research showed 75 per cent were unemployed.

Who speaks for you?

Proposed changes to the public school board’s trustee code of conduct could infringe on rights to free speech, according to legal experts, wrote the Hamilton Spectator June 1.

On Monday night, trustees from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board approved a revised code that calls on board members to “represent the board and its officers in a positive light,” and accept contrary opinions respectfully without making disparaging remarks about other board members in or outside of board meetings.

Richard Leblanc, a professor of corporate governance at York University [School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], said the clause could be interpreted to mean that trustees can’t dissent, challenge or criticize. And in his opinion, “that’s just not good governance.”

He admits, however, that it’s not always easy to accommodate free speech, especially when confidential matters are involved. “It’s a trade-off,” he said. “You don’t want errant trustees undermining…But that has to be balanced with legitimate concerns that you should have a mechanism in place for employees, and management and directors to be able to voice their concerns and not compel absolute confidentiality or stifle dissent.”

Web tangles traditional ad bans, study finds

The worst offenders are gambling and sex sites, wrote the Toronto Star May 31, in a story about how online advertising undermines the societal goals of banning ads for certain products. They routinely flout local advertising standards with impunity, said Alan Middleton, a professor with York University’s Schulich School of Business.

“There are regulations, but if the source is outside the country, there’s not much they can do about it,” he said.

Annex author’s work reissued 17 years after his death

This month, two works by the infamous late-Annex writer Daniel Jones are being reissued, wrote Toronto’s Annex Gleaner May 31. Coach House’s The Brave Never Write Poetry comes with a brand new New Order record sleeve-inspired cover, while Three O’Clock Press’ remix of 1978 is slightly more sophisticated than its original release over a decade ago.

Before his death, Jones did briefly attempt to make the most of his writing output, teaching at York University for two years. According to an article published just months after his death in Open Letter by Clint Burnham, the prospect of teaching was a brutal wake-up call for Jones. “For most of this country, these sub-occupations of the general label ‘intellectual’ mean almost nothing,” a fact brought brutally home to Jones the two years he taught a fiction-writing course at York University, when he would try to teach students, bedazzled by Hollywood ideas of creativity and writing, that most writers are not Stephen King.”

Jones turned his back on poetry, and in addition to editing many fledgling small-press journals in Toronto, began writing fiction before taking his own life in 1994, the day before Valentine’s Day.

In 2003, Chelsea Ireton [BA ’08], a first-year York University drama student [at Glendon College], was stage manager for a play called Poet based on Daniel Jones’ poetry, written by Robert Wallace. According to an archived issue of [Glendon’s] student paper Protem from November 2003, Ireton was asked to describe the play in one word, and she responded, “different,” adding “oh, that sounded bad, but it isn’t that, it’s different in a good way.”

Ireton described Jones’ poetry as having a “dark mood, yet he also has a dry humour,” and it was the hope of both Ireton and Wallace that the play’s vibrancy would encourage people to seek out the late poet’s original work.

The budget extender: Fatima Hyder, manager, invention, Mindshare

Tenacity is the name of the game for Fatima Hyder [BA Hons. ’03], manager, invention at Mindshare, wrote June 1.

It was a quality quite evident in her pursuit of the best media option for Unilever’s Lipton Tea brand. Hyder was equally dogged in her negotiations for a die-cut print execution on behalf of Knorr last fall.

Hyder, 28, was born in Pakistan, grew up in Saudi Arabia and came to Toronto to attend York University, where she took communication studies and political science.

York student in top three for MuchMusic award

Edmundston singer Danyka Nadeau, 20, has been named one of the top three finalists in the final round of the MMVAs Covers Award competition, wrote New Brunswick’s Telegraph-Journal June 1.

Nadeau, Justin Dubé, 27, and Levar Allen, 22, earned VIP trips to the 2011 MuchMusic Video Awards on June 19, where one singer will win the grand prize.

Nadeau, the youngest of the three finalists, studies music and communications at Toronto’s York University. In her videos, she sings everything from rock to jazz to R&B.

Former football Lion signs with CFL’s Stampeders

The Calgary Stampeders made some last-minute additions to their training-camp roster Tuesday by signing seven players, wrote The Canadian Press May 31.

Calgary signed wide receivers Jake Allen and Tyrone Collins, defensive backs Andre Clarke and Demetrice Morley, linebacker Terrance Stringer and defensive linemen Thomas Majors and Jamontay Pilson.

Stampeder head coach and GM John Hufnagel also announced Tuesday that left tackle Edwin Harrison suffered a torn pectoral muscle while working out last week and won’t participate in training camp. Harrison was a candidate to replace all-star Ben Archibald, who signed with the BC Lions in the off-season.

Clarke, from Mississauga, Ont., spent the last two seasons with York University, recording 48.5 tackles, a sack and three interceptions last year. He also played for the University of Manitoba Bisons in 2007 and 2008.

On air

  • Stuart Shanker, professor of philosophy & psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about the marshmallow test, which is used to gauge children’s ability to delay gratification, on CBC Radio May 31.